Friday, September 22, 2023

Bamboo-hoo: The Greenwashing of Snowboarding


I don’t know about you, but I am not buying into this whole “green craze” in snowboarding. Sure, we can make fun of wakeboarding because their activity is potentially more offensive to the environment than snowboarding, but when it all comes down to it, snowboarding is just not a “green” activity.

We human beings need to feel better about ourselves though, and the snowboard industry seems to be wholeheartedly jumping on the bandwagon of “eco-friendly” products. And what word says “eco-friendly” like bamboo! Let’s be realistic though, riding a snowboard or wearing socks made of bamboo isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

Sure, bamboo has plenty of benefits for clothing. It’s highly renewable and grows back without replanting. It requires no pesticides, and will grow like a weed just about anywhere. And of course once processed, it’s silky and wonderful and naturally anti-microbial and moisture wicking. So why wouldn’t every one want to use it?

There in lies the problem: everyone does want to use it. From snowboard first layer companies to high fashion, you are hard-pressed to find a line without at least one piece of bamboo in it. Sure it’s easily renewable, but where is all this bamboo growing? Well, the high demand for bamboo in everything from clothing to flooring is causing many Chinese farmers to turn natural forests into bamboo fields. And even though it’s not necessary, many cultivators are starting to use fertilizers that are hardly “organic” to make the fast growing plant grow even faster.

So the solution is to just buy American, right? Well, in addition to defeating one of the other major-eco benefits of bamboo (it’s cheap and low-impact because it grows near the factories) there really is no such thing. China is the only place with the technology and machinery to effectively grow and mill bamboo. China’s eco-policy? Well, that air in Beijing didn’t get so thick from solar and wind power.

A little more research and it turns out to process bamboo into that lustrous and wonderful sheen we enjoy so much in our socks, some pretty gnarly chemicals are used. Carbon disulfide (shown to affect the normal functions of the brain, liver, and heart) and sodium hydroxide (which causes swelling or spasms of the upper airway leading to obstruction and loss of measurable pulse; inflammation of the lungs and accumulation of fluid in the lungs) help turn the fiber into something we can use. I guess the point is to be good for the environment, so who cares about the Chinese factory workers, right?

Oh yeah, and what about the pandas? What will they eat if we use all the bamboo for t-shirts and snowboards? Think of the pandas! But I digress…

The solution? Don’t feel too good about yourself just because you are wearing a bamboo t-shirt. You are not helping anything. If you really want to make a difference, try eating Sun Chips or buying your gas from BP. Go green!
bamboo jacket
bamboo boards
bamboo socks
bamboo line


  1. “No, you may not interview the panda. It’s a live bear and will literally eat your face right off.”

    P-tex, snowmobiles, diesel & electric powered lifts and certainly helicopters make snowboarding one of the least green activities imaginable. Add a styrofoam cup of coffee and some of those all preservative chocolate donuts and you have yourself a bona fide ecological disaster!

    Now I feel like investing in a wind farm.

    – Tim

  2. I’ve been in one of the biggest snowboard companies product meetings, and I can say that these green products are definitely a marketing scheme.

    “What can we do that’s green?”

    “You can’t make a green snowboard!”

    “Yeah, but maybe we can do A, B, or C and call it green.”

    “Ok, let’s call it the Eco-gun!”

    “You’re so sick! Good idea.”

    “You’re pretty sick yourself.”

  3. Yeah I just got back from the OR trade show (aka Outdoor “I’m soooo eco” Retailer) where every booth was green as can be. If you didn’t have like 20 green products you were pimping you were just not a cool company. While everyone seems to be doing it now I’d like to just point out that Patagonia started the green thing in the mid-90s and actually worked with Polartec to create a fleece made with plastic bottles. Now that’s the standard in all fleece. While everyone kind of knows Patagonia is green, I think they do a good job of not being like “ooohhhhhh looooook at us!!! We are sooooo green.” I think companies should just do it and not push it. It should be an automatica cause it’s their responsibility as companies making new products that we don’t really need for the most part….
    ok my 2 cents.

  4. You know what’s truly green? Boogers. Now if company could produce a boogie board (although this may bring about trade mark issues with the actual Boogie Board folk) we would be solving two problems:

    1. Environmental – it would greatly reduce the destruction of forests and use of toxic soils.

    2. The employment crisis – have you ever seen how much homeless and out of work people pick their nose? And it allow those already employed full time to make a little extra on the side, because let’s face it it would take A LOT of boogers to adequately supply an entire industry.

    The only problem that I could see with this theory would have to do with child labor laws.

  5. THat bamboo board looks really nice. I thought you were going to post about recycling snowboards…I just wrote about it on my site. you can drop off old gear to be recycled…but the “precycling” aspect is even more important!

    Nice blog theme, BTW.

  6. Man, I’m glad I don’t work for the aforementioned “biggest snowboard company” that views the environment as a marketing scheme. Not surprising, but lame.

    Obviously, there’s a long way to go to make progress. I don’t know if it makes anyone feel better, but some companies actually have discussions about sustainable ways to have less impact. It’s simple stuff like not making too much. Factory waste is a huge issue. If everyone starts with simple, practical steps, it’s better than just throwing our hands up in defeat.

    The difficulty of the challenge isn’t reason enough to be dissuaded from trying.

    I also agree with Shanti, Patagonia is a good model.

  7. I can’t believe everyone keeps talking around in circles about how they can make something that is green. The answer is right in front of your face!!! Don’t make anything. Stop using and consuming and start using up what is around you, re-use and stop consuming so much. Stop looking for another reason to buy something! Grow it, build it, recycle it, try anything except running out to Wal-Mart to buy another new and better 9and now greener) one. Now excuse me while I get back to work and make another sales call to sell more product.

  8. Huh. And here I was, getting all excited that bamboo was the shit. Thinking of all the bamboo stuff I would buy, how awesome bamboo is even if you couldn’t use it for anything, but I suppose if I had thought about it, how else would it be possible to make something silky out of something “stronger than wood or steel.” Quote from another website selling bamboo products.
    Just got distracted by all the hype.

  9. It seems misleading to talk about how awful bamboo is without mention of what it’s replacing. Cotton and fiberglass are two enormously destructive productions and a little less would probably help. But like Mark said, it’s all about less of everything.

  10. I thought their was some good points, but you shouldn’t completely bash a good idea because of the kinks that exist, you gotta fix the kinks. Bamboo is sick , but like it was mentioned, it has to be grown, processed, and shipped in sustainable ways and working conditions of the people have to match as well. another thing is that bamboo has something like 1,600 ish types of species that grow all over the place, so just china dosn’t have to take the impact. Another thing that might help is to stop over making short term economics like the construction of buildings and look to long term things like organic farming that make and keep jobs, this could help with breaking into forest land to farm as well as spreading the farming of things like bamboo all over to lessen certain areas which bamboo grows all over the place, and growing other things like cotton or hemp or whatever can be grown without dangerous pestisides so bamboo shouldn’t take all the heat. Skiing and snowboarding definitely isn’t green in the construction of products but things like base, top sheet, and sidewalls made from recycled P-Tex from renewable powered recycling plants help slow down the impacts and create a latter to better things I also found where surfers are using a bamboo fabric as a fiberglass to glass their boards, i thought this was pretty cool check it out at is about the equivalent to triaxial fiberglass, this could really help with problems with conventional fiberglass, also i the next ten years epoxy from soy is supposed to increase in quality should look at that to. If we don’t start somewhere then we’ll never go anywhere. I do agree that over publicizing of actions without actually making green changes isn’t good but i have never tried to run a company and therfore shouldn’t speak without backing it up(got to make sure their doing their jobs at he same time i guess), so maybe i’ll stop typing and go do something.

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